Editor’s Note: On Jan. 13, Fox News Senior Religion Correspondent Eli Rosenberg and FOX Business’ Melissa Francis traveled to Okemos, Michigan in hopes of revealing the horrors of illegal overpopulation of the invasive black bear in the region.
Okemos has just become a backdrop for a starring role in a sneak peek of a viral movie – inspired by the recent problems this side of the Great Lakes is facing from the depredation of feral pigs.
Until recently, the county seat of Okemos, a town of 28,000, had no idea its riverfront property was contaminated with hundreds of wild pigs. Now, a senior pastor who oversees the most active immigration ministry in the state of Michigan worries about the large, not-yet-known population’s impact on local residents and the future of his congregation.
“We’re sitting here and some people’s faith in God is being challenged,” Tom Smith, senior pastor of Saint John The Baptist, told Francis.
Eighty-year-old Smith is a longtime regular at the local church where praying the rosary every evening was founded more than a century ago. And when he discovered the source of the dirty water in his swimming pool, he contacted the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, calling them to warn about the growing pig problem.
The pig’s environmental impact is being felt from the top of riverbanks to community spas. Pig stench is now more pervasive than smog and larger fruit and vegetables are rotting in local trash bins. Grand Rapids’s Harley-Davidson plant is one of thousands of businesses that is a pig breeding ground.
The pork-eating creature has destroyed numerous commercial businesses as well as more than a dozen or so homes in the town. In fact, the former hog latrine have become a nesting area for what the DNR calls “nuisance” bird species.
Businesses, especially police and fire departments, are particularly burdened by the need to ferry these pigs to slaughter as they are not pre-reared in the traditional “feed-a-pig” school program.
But local hunters who stand between the pig and their target are also now in danger. Picsante CEO Erich Nelson doesn’t know the exact number of his community’s wild-free range pigs, but he does say around 50 to 100 are approaching him on a daily basis.
Nelson took pictures of one “finny” pugilist, a boar with an inflatable rubber tire in its mouth. The pig was protecting its head from the tire’s air bubbles.
Picsante uses these practice pigs as a tool to deter would-be thieves looking to break into bins full of crisp chicken-cutter knives and other items that are among the most popular items sold in the packaging plant.
“If you see a lasso line or something like that, it’s a deterrent,” Nelson told Francis.
The lighthearted program is still underway and does little to reduce the frequency of losses. Instead, these hunters say they’re better off stopping after only one pig to prove the presence of an infestation. The slow-moving maulers are just too big for one person to contain at a time.
“There’s a ton of damage,” Nelson noted.
A recent court case in Ottawa County was a large win for supporters of farmers and anti-pig activists. A dead pig trap was found underneath the bed of a tractor and a wheel-scraper was found after a forklift-er hucksters took advantage of a pork butt scavenged from a dumpster.
And a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development campaign prompted 250 residents to scour the countryside and evict illegal pig-lifters.
The state went into action when state pollinators began disappearing due to the pigs’ acres of fertile waste. Mosquitoes were recruited to feed on the debris. When the pigs fill all their waste in a food shelf for sale, the food waste then poisons the corn crop, which is usually harvested for several tons of hamburger.
But in Okemos, four feet of water is next to high-density surrounding bodies of water and water intake screens are trashed with pig feces. Smith says a local church has sold $500 of insurance on a failing high-rise fire hydrant and many more are in danger of flooding.